OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Reign of Henry the Eighth - (Continued) page 13


Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 <13> 14 15 16

In what the dying cardinal said as to the impossibility of ever putting an idea out of Henry's head that you once put in, no doubt he alluded to his having suggested the idea of the divorce and the marriage of a French princess, which suggestion had thus fatally worked for himself. On the 29th of November, 1530, thus died Thomas, Lord Cardinal Wolsey, one of the most extraordinary characters that was ever raised up and again overthrown by the mere will of a king, and who unconsciously contributed to one of the most extensive revolutions of human mine and government which the world has known. No words can more perfectly present the two sides of his character than those of our great dramatist: -

"Queen Catherine. . . . . He was a man
Of an unbounded stomach, ever ranking
Himself with princes; one, that by suggestion
Tied all the kingdom: simony was fair play;
His own opinion was his law: i' the presence
He would say untruths; and be ever double,
Both in his words and meaning.
"Griffith. . . . . . .This cardinal,
Though from an humble stock, undoubtedly
Was fashioned to much honour. From his cradle
He was a scholar, and a ripe and good one;
Exceeding wise, fair spoken, and persuading:
Lofty and sour to them that loved him not;
But to those men that sought him, sweet as summer.
And though he were unsatisfied in getting
(Which was a sin), yet in bestowing, madam,
He was most princely."

Cavendish, the faithful secretary of Wolsey, rode on from Leicester to London, to announce the decease of the cardinal to the king. He found him engaged in a match of archery in the park of Hampton Court, that magnificent pile raised and presented to him by that magnificent minister. When the sport was finished, and Cavendish had delivered his solemn message, Henry seemed considerably touched by it, but almost immediately began to inquire with great eagerness after a sum of 1,500, which some one had told him. Wolsey had secreted in some private place. Cavendish assured him that it had been put into the hands of a certain priest. Henry questioned him over and over again regarding this coveted sum, and said: - "Then, keep this gear secret between yourself and me: three may keep counsel, if two be away. If I thought my cap knew my mind, I would cast it into the fire and burn it. And if I hear any more of this, I shall know by whom it has been revealed."

In following the story of Wolsey to its close, we have a little overstepped the progress of affairs. As soon as the great man was out of the way, a ministry was formed of the leading persons of the Boleyn party. The Duke of Norfolk, Anne's uncle, was made president of the council, Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, lord marshal, and the Earl of Wiltshire, the father of Anne Boleyn, had a principal place. Sir Thomas More, unfortunately for him as it proved, was made lord chancellor instead of Wolsey, a promotion which he reluctantly accepted. Amongst the king's servants, Stephen Gardiner, who had been introduced and much employed by Wolsey, still remained high in the king's favour, and occupied the post of his secretary. Gardiner, a bigoted Catholic, and afterwards one of the most bloody persecutors of the reformers, now, however, in trying to promote the wishes of the king for the divorce, unconsciously promoted the Reformation.

The king, returning from the progress which he had made to Moore Park, and to Graf ton, remained one night at Waltham. Gardiner and Fox were lodged in the house of a Mr. Cressy, a gentleman of good family. After supper the conversation turned on the grand topic of the day - the king's divorce, and Gardiner and Fox detailed the difficulties that surrounded it, and the apparent impossibility of getting the Pope to move in it. A grave clergyman, the tutor of the family, of the name of Thomas Cranmer, after listening to the discourse, was asked by Fox and Gardiner what he thought of the matter. At first he declined to give his opinion on so high a matter, but being pressed, he said, he thought they were wrong altogether in the way they were seeking the divorce. That as the Pope evidently would not commit himself upon the subject, his opinion was that they should not waste any more time in fruitless solicitations at Rome, but submit this plain question to the most learned men and chief universities of Europe: "Do the laws of God permit a man to marry his brother's widow?" If, as he imagined, the answers were in the negative, the Pope would not dare to pronounce a sentence in opposition to the opinions of all these learned men and learned bodies.

On the return of the Court to Greenwich, Fox and Gardiner related this conversation to the king, who instantly swore that "the man had got the right sow by the ear," and ordered him instantly to be sent for to Court. Cranmer, on his arrival, maintained his opinion in a manner which wonderfully delighted Henry, and raised his hope of having at length hit on the true mode of solving the difficulty. He immediately retained Cranmer in his service, appointed him his chaplain, and placed him in the family of Anne's father, the Earl of Wiltshire, where he was to write a book in favour of the divorce, and to devote himself to the promotion of this great object. Cranmer, like almost every one who took the fancy of Henry, soon rose to great honour, became Archbishop of Canterbury, a great champion of the Reformation, and ended his life, like most others of the great courtiers of that monarch, by a violent death. Fatal were the honours conferred by Henry VIII.: they led rapidly upwards to the block or the fagot.

Cranmer went zealously into the work appointed for him, for it was a grand step towards that object which he had above all others secretly in his heart - the reformation of the Church; and no doubt his friends and coadjutors gave him all possible aid in his labours. The course which he was pursuing went not only to effect Henry's divorce, but to establish the fact that the laws of God were to be appealed to in the Bible, and not in the Pope; and this once determined in so public and notorious a case, would create a breach betwixt Rome and England which never would be filled up. He very soon, therefore, had his treatise ready, which was printed - for now that great engine, the press, was beginning its revolutionising operations - and was diligently circulated, both at home and abroad.

Agents were dispatched to obtain the required opinion from the different universities, both in England and on the Continent, well provided with that most persuasive of rhetoricians - money. At his own universities, however, Henry found no little opposition. The doctors and seniors were, out of hope of promotion, found ready to decide as the king wished; but the younger members were determined and uproarious in resistance. The subject was debated in Convocation at Oxford with great heat and confusion, and the assembly was obliged to be dissolved without coming to any conclusion. Henry was highly indignant at this proceeding, and addressed one of his bullying remonstrances to the university, calling on the heads of houses to bring their juniors into more order, or those young gentlemen, in attempting to play the masters, might find it not good to provoke hornets. "The wise men," as Anthony a Wood terms them, did their best, but they did not silence or bring over the younger men without immense labour. Dr. Fox, Dr. Bell, and Longland, Bishop of Lincoln, were down there, doing everything to overawe or win over the refractory; and, after incredible labour, they succeeded in procuring a formal declaration in favour of the divorce. In Cambridge the same result was obtained by the same coercion - by threats and promises; and the seal of the university was attached to a formal document, declaring the marriage of Henry and Catherine to be illegal.

On the Continent, where Henry's menaces had no weight, his purse was freely opened; and the universities of Bologna, Padua, and Ferrara, as well as many learned men, were prevailed on to take the view that Henry wished. In Germany his agents were far less successful. Both Protestants and Catholics in general condemned his proposed divorce; and Luther and Melanchthon said he had much better follow the example of the patriarchs, and take a second wife, than put away the first, without any crime on her part. This strange doctrine was some months afterwards recommended to the Pope by some one of his dignified clergy, as the best means of liberating both himself and the English king from the difficulty. From France and its fourteen universities Henry expected much more compliance, but he was there also greatly disappointed. Francis replied that he dared not excite the anger of Charles till he had paid him 400,000 crowns, the ransom of his sons, who were still detained as hostages in Spain. The hint was not lost; Henry advanced to Francis 400,000 crowns as a loan, though he already owed him 500,000, and sent him the lily of diamonds which Charles and Maximilian had formerly pawned to Henry for 50,000. By this profuse liberality Henry won over the French king, who, obtaining the freedom of his sons, exerted all his influence to procure from the faculty of theology in Paris a declaration favourable to his desires. A violent opposition, nevertheless, arose in the faculty, and the contest was carried on between the faculty and the Crown for several months, till Francis, growing impatient, had a spurious decree fabricated, which was published by Henry as genuine. Prom Orleans, Toulouse, and Bourges, and from the civilians of Angers, similar decisions were procured, but the theologians of the last city maintained the validity of the existing marriage. The answers from other universities were either not received or were suppressed.

The scheme of Cranmer had not worked particularly well; the opinions of the universities were for the most part either adverse, or were forced, and those of learned men more opposed than coinciding. It had been the intention, when these opinions were collected, to lay them before the Pope as the voice of the united Christian world pronouncing in favour of the divorce; but they were not, after all, of a complexion which was likely to do much good. The plan, therefore, was altered, and a letter, subscribed by the lords spiritual and temporal, and by a certain number of the Commons, as the representatives of the nation, was addressed to the Pope, in which it was asked what crime the King of England had committed that he could not obtain what the most learned men and the most famous universities declared to be his right? that the country was threatened with the calamities of a disputed succession, which could only be averted by the king's marriage; and yet that marriage was prevented by the delays of the Papal Court. To this Clement replied that the delay was the king's own, who had neglected to appoint an attorney to plead for him at Rome.

Baffled thus by the pertinacity of Clement, backed by the constant vigilance and favour of the emperor, Henry began to lose much of his confidence and overbearing insolence. He complained that he had been assured that nothing would be easier than to procure a divorce, but now he found himself involved in labours and intricacies that threatened to last his life, and even to wear it oat. There needed a more determined spirit than that of Cranmer to break the way through the wood of embarrassments in which they were involved, and the right man now stepped forward in Thomas Cromwell, the former secretary of Wolsey. The rise of this man had been extraordinary. He was the son of a blacksmith at Putney, who, as he had acquired capital, became a brewer, or fuller, and could afford to give his son a tolerable education, including some Latin. In early youth he went to the Continent, where, amongst other knowledge, he made himself master of the principal languages. He was, in the commencement of his career on the Continent, a clerk in an English house at Antwerp; after that he went into the army, and was serving under the Duke of Bourbon at the sack of Rome. On the restoration of peace, he again returned to the counting-house, in the employ of a Venetian merchant. At length, stored with knowledge calculated to make him of the most signal service as a politician, he returned to England, and commenced the study of the law. By some means he was brought under the notice of Cardinal Wolsey, who immediately perceived the value of his experience of the world and his accomplishments. Wolsey secured his services, and soon employed him in the great work of dissolving the monasteries, the proceeds of which he destined to the erection and endowment of his colleges. In this employment he gave great satisfaction to his patron, and at the same time is said to have enriched himself. Hated by the clergy, who saw in him a dangerous and able enemy, he was the more strongly supported by the cardinal, who had need of so daring and unscrupulous a man. By his influence he was soon sent to Parliament, where his talents, eloquence, and ready address soon greatly distinguished him.

When Wolsey was disgraced, Cromwell showed that there was a strong principle of gratitude and attachment in his soul. He accompanied the fallen minister to the retreat appointed him at Esher. There he seems to have brooded in the solitude on the evil fortunes which had overtaken his master, and in which his own were involved. Cavendish, the secretary of the cardinal, relates this incident: - "It chanced me, upon Allhallow's Day, to come into the great chamber at Esher, in the morning, to give mine attendance; where I found Master Cromwell leaning in the great window with a primer in his hand, saying Our Lady matins, which since had been a strange sight. He prayed not more earnestly than the tears distilled from his eyes. Whom I bade good morrow, and with that I perceived the tears upon his cheeks. To whom I said, 'Why, Master Cromwell, what meaneth all this sorrow? Is my lord in any danger, that you lament thus? Or is it for any loss ye have sustained for any misadventure?' 'Nay, nay,' quoth he, 'it is my unhappy adventure, which am likely to lose all that I have travelled for all the days of my life, for doing my master true and diligent service!'" Cavendish endeavoured to comfort him, but he said, "An ill name once gotten was not likely to be put away." Presently, however, he added, in a more cheerful tone, "But I intend, God willing, this afternoon, when my lord cardinal hath dined, to ride to London, and so to the Court, where I will either make or mar."

Cromwell was intensely ambitious; but with his own aspiring, he - more noble than most courtiers - still desired to unite the interests of his old patron. Wolsey approved of his design to return to the Court, where he could prosecute the advantage of both master, and man; and it was at this moment that Wolsey addressed those words to his departing servant which have been so beautifully woven into his drama by Shakespeare: -

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 <13> 14 15 16

Pictures for Reign of Henry the Eighth - (Continued) page 13

Old Greenwich
Old Greenwich >>>>
King Henry and his Council
King Henry and his Council >>>>
Francis I
Francis I >>>>
Louise reading of the Capture of the King
Louise reading of the Capture of the King >>>>
Rhodes in the Sixteenth Century
Rhodes in the Sixteenth Century >>>>
Boudoir of Anne Boleyn
Boudoir of Anne Boleyn >>>>
Residence of Anne Boleyn
Residence of Anne Boleyn >>>>
Entrance to Wolsey's College
Entrance to Wolsey's College >>>>
Queen Anne Boleyn
Queen Anne Boleyn >>>>
Entry of Anne Boleyn into London
Entry of Anne Boleyn into London >>>>
Henry VIII. dancing with Anne Boleyn.
Henry VIII. dancing with Anne Boleyn. >>>>
Antechamber in Hever Castle
Antechamber in Hever Castle >>>>
The Trial of Queen Catherine
The Trial of Queen Catherine >>>>
The Dismissal of Cardinal Wolsey
The Dismissal of Cardinal Wolsey >>>>
Wolsey at Leicester
Wolsey at Leicester >>>>
Ruins of Leicester Abbey
Ruins of Leicester Abbey >>>>
Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer >>>>
Private Marriage of Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII
Private Marriage of Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII >>>>
Cardinal Pole
Cardinal Pole >>>>
Place of Execution within the Tower of London
Place of Execution within the Tower of London >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About